Creating a Successful

Businesses hire interns to share their field experience with newcomers, get entry-level and administrative tasks done, and help students get the real-world experience they need to be successful. Although these student employees often work in exchange for stipends or academic credit, employers need to be careful: Interns do not equal free labor, and if you’re thinking of welcoming interns into your office, there are a few key points to consider before you make your first hire. Business News Daily spoke with legal and HR experts about providing a beneficial, legally compliant experience for your interns in a for-profit setting. The pay question: What duties are being performed? Pop culture (based on many real-life stories) makes it seem like interns’ lives revolve around making copies, standing in long lines to get everyone coffee, and answering their boss’s phone calls in the middle of the night, all without a single penny in return. However, there are tasks that an intern could be doing that would categorize them as an employee – which would mean legal entitlement to compensation.

The decision of whether to pay an intern is largely based on what the intern is doing. Adam Kemper, a labor and employment attorney for the Greenspoon Marder law firm, said there needs to be a distinction between interns’ duties and a typical employee’s duties if you don’t intend to pay them. “On a day-to-day basis, what is the intern doing?” Kemper said. “Shadowing? Running errands? Is he or she (working) independently or supervised?” “Ensure that (an unpaid) intern is not performing work or taking on responsibilities that would typically be performed by a full-time employee,” added Samantha Lambert, director of human resources at Blue Fountain Media. If there’s any doubt whatsoever about whether the worker should be classified as an intern or employee, Kemper advised sticking with “employee” and adding him or her to the payroll. “What’s problematic for companies is that they’re having interns run errands, get coffee, buy things for (employees) – nothing educational,” Kemper said. “If you want to have someone do that, treat them as an employee and pay minimum wage.” What tasks can an intern perform? If you decide to pay your intern, that might change the way you structure your program. Paid interns who receive at least minimum wage and overtime pay for working beyond 40 hours per week can technically perform the work of your regular workforce. However, the Department of Labor has a very specific set of guidelines regarding what unpaid interns can and can’t do. If receiving academic credit is not a possibility or the intern is already out of school, Lambert noted, your company must comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This means your internship program must be designed so your company does not benefit at all from the interns’ work, and the experience should be for educational purposes only. The employer should aim to provide the intern with skills that can be used in his or her future career, rather than skills particular to its own operations.

A good way to make the experience educational is to talk to the intern about the differences between school and career and tie their education into their internship. “Students can have an idealistic view of how their college course has totally prepared them for the full-time position,” said Tim Elmore, president of Growing Leaders. “While I can remain very positive about the need for higher education, I always communicate how different an eight-hour workday on the job is compared to a school day on the campus. I talk about the practical value of soft skills … versus the classroom, which measures memorization and test scores.” Kemper advised thinking about the tasks you’d want an intern to do long before you begin searching for candidates. This way, you can clearly articulate the duties and learning experience an intern can expect from your company.

Bad Hire Really Costing Your Business

The average cost of hiring the wrong employee is $17,000, according to research conducted by Career Builder. That means getting the hiring decision right the first time is essential, but how can hiring managers be sure they’re bringing on the right people? Conventional hiring methods follow a simple process where candidates apply based on a vague job description, several are selected for interviews, and then eventually one is selected. But oftentimes what seemed like the right fit quickly becomes a hiring error. Rex Conner, human resources consultant and author of “What if Common Sense Was Common Practice in Business?” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016) told Business News Daily the fix is simple: reduce subjectivity in the hiring process. “The biggest obstacle to hiring the right people, onboarding them, training them, evaluating and developing them is subjectivity,” Conner said. “We end up with these ridiculous conversations where an interviewer asks, ‘What’s your biggest weakness,’ and (the response) is ‘I work too much.’ That doesn’t tell you anything about the skills required.”

Given that Career Builder found nearly 60 percent of bad hires went wrong because the employee could not produce the level of work required by the employer, understanding skill set at step one is imperative to avoiding a hiring disaster. Conner offered up the following advice for hiring managers whom are rethinking the hiring process in terms of demonstrable skills and objective measurements of candidates.

  • Develop and articulate two sets of skills: prerequisites and trained. Prerequisites are the skills that a candidate should come to the interview prepared to demonstrate. These skills are required for the job and new employees will not be trained in them. The trained skills are ones that will be learned on the job; some prior proficiency is desirable, but not necessarily required.
  • Reduce the chatter in interviews. Make the interview more about asking the candidate to demonstrate their prerequisite skills than asking open-ended questions that ultimately give you little insight. Once the skills have been demonstrated, ask those questions if you’d like, but there’s no sense in asking them of someone who cannot demonstrate an ability to do the work.
  • Make subjective “soft skills” objective. Things like “cultural fit” and “team player” are somewhat subjective; every company sees a “team player” slightly differently. Conner recommends breaking down these “soft skills” into their component parts. Exactly what do you look for in a team player or in a cultural fit? Name those things to make them concrete, and then ask yourself if you see those traits in your candidate.
  • Narrow the list with job requirements – Getting candidates to whittle down your list for you is key. This can be done by posting job requirements, such as “willing to work weekends” or “must be willing to travel.” Any potential candidates unwilling to abide by these requirements will not make it through your door for an interview, thereby saving time, money and reducing the risk of making a wrong hire.
  • Be subjective if you’re stuck. At this point, Conner said, you’ve got all you need to decide. If two candidates are deadlocked after you have assessed their required skills, determined their coachability on trained skills, examined their soft skills and explained the job requirements in detail, subjectivity still serves.

 

The Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule Change

A U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule change that would extend overtime protections to an estimated 4.2 million workers was temporarily halted by an injunction after 21 states sued in District Court. The DOL subsequently appealed the decision and is awaiting a decision in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Below is an overview of the previous rule, which the DOL is expected to revisit and significantly revise after abdicating its defense of the Obama-era rule in court. The DOL has, however, maintained that it has the authority to set such a rule governing salary thresholds under the law.

The amendment to minimum wage and overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act was set to go into effect Dec. 1, and would have lifted long-standing exemptions and raised the pay threshold from $23,660 annually to $47,476. Positions once considered executive, administrative or professional would be subject to overtime pay as well, and the pay threshold would be indexed to wage growth and updated once every three years.

“This [rule change] definitely will take merchants by surprise if they’re not careful and don’t pay attention,” Mark Schulze, co-founder of smart point-of-sale system Clover, told Business News Daily. “It’s a big change, so many people are affected by it.”

In short, employees who do not make at least the threshold salary and classify as exempt — now a narrower classification than before — are entitled to time-and-a-half pay after they’ve worked 40 hours in a week. The U.S. DOL maintains a list of valid exemptions for executive, administrative and professional positions for quick reference. [See Related Story: What You Need to Know About the New Federal Overtime Rules]

Much like with any other major change, business owners will need to ensure they’re prepared to handle the transition. Here’s everything you need to consider to make sure you’re in compliance with federal regulations by the deadline.

 

What is required of employers?

First and foremost, it’s important to track and record employees’ hours properly. Failing to do so could lead to errors and potentially even costly lawsuits. For small businesses using pen and paper or Microsoft Excel to track hours manually, the change means more time spent in administrative tasks and a higher likelihood of mistakes. It might be worth your while to consider investing in a time-and-attendance system that could automate much of the task of tracking hours.

“If you are tracking time on paper, switch to an automated system,” said John Waldmann, founder of employee scheduling company Homebase. “Tracking hours is complex, and the last thing you want is to be unprepared come Dec. 1 and have this catch up to you in 2017. This next month and a half is really the time to put the technological change in place.”

Business owners will also encounter new difficulties when managing their labor budgets. It’s necessary to revisit your operational practices as a whole, as well as the way you schedule and classify employees. Finding efficiencies wherever possible can help cut down on the total hours you spend on this task and reduce your likelihood of scheduling overtime for employees, Waldmann said.

“You can’t adjust how much overtime is being accrued and how much people are working without rethinking how you run your business,” Waldmann said.

 

What are the consequences for failing to plan accordingly?

Failure to comply with the new regulations can be disastrous for your bottom line, even to the point of ruining the business. At worst, an employee could file a wage-and-hour lawsuit against you, which will take considerable time and money just to settle.

“The exposure can be extremely large — magnified, of course, by how large your workforce happens to be,” said M. Reid Estes, labor and employment practice department manager at law firm Dickinson Wright. “You see multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements almost weekly.”

Even if a lawsuit doesn’t arise, you could end up spending a lot of extra hours correcting errors, and lost time is irreplaceable. Moreover, in an attempt to keep employees exempt, many employers might mistakenly raise salaries, only to find out a worker’s job duties classify them as non-exempt; this essentially amounts to an added expense, Estes said.

“A lot of employers are taking the opportunity to do an audit,” he said. “Look at your workforce, and make sure they meet the duties test [for exempt status].”

 

Encourage Employees to Volunteer

Creating a culture of volunteerism within your company doesn’t just help others, it also helps your organization, new research finds. A study from Deloitte revealed that employers who encourage and promote volunteering boost morale, workplace atmosphere and brand perception. The research found that an overwhelming majority – 89 percent – of employees think organizations that sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment. In addition, 70 percent believe volunteer activities are more likely to boost staff morale than company-sponsored happy hours, with more than three-quarters saying volunteering is essential to employee well-being.

Nearly 70 percent of employees are not volunteering as much as they would like to, with nearly two-thirds of those saying part of the reason is because they aren’t able to dedicate any time during the day to volunteer. “Employers have an opportunity to build on their volunteerism programs by creating a culture that celebrates volunteering and empowers volunteers to be more active,” said Doug Marshall, managing director of corporate citizenship for Deloitte LLP, said in a statement. In addition to providing more opportunities to volunteer, employers can do a better job of making sure employees, especially younger ones, know the benefits of doing so.

Three-quarters of the millennials surveyed said they would volunteer more if they had a better understanding of the impact they were making, compared to 61 percent of those of all ages. Besides explaining the benefits to the community that come from volunteering, employers could do a better job of informing employees how helping others in need can have a positive impact on themselves. Although 80 percent of those who make hiring decisions believe active volunteers move into leadership roles more easily, only 18 percent of employees think volunteering can enhance their career opportunities. Additionally, just 36 percent think volunteering can help develop new skills. “As businesses continue to find new ways to retain and attract new talent, and establish a more purpose-driven and engaged workforce, they should consider how they can better incorporate volunteerism into their culture,” Marshall said. “It’s a potential solution from which businesses, professionals and communities can benefit, while supporting employees’ personal and career development, and boosting their sense of well-being.”

When it comes to managing employees

When it comes to managing employees, it can be tempting to watch your workers like a hawk. However, new research shows that granting a degree of autonomy to your employees tends to boost their job satisfaction and overall sense of well-being. Researchers at the University of Birmingham Business School found that workers given more autonomy – in the form of work from home privileges or the pace of work and deadlines – were far more likely to report feeling valued by their employers. “Greater levels of control over work tasks and schedule have the potential to generate significant benefits for the employee,” Daniel Wheatley, senior lecturer in business and labour economics at the Birmingham Business School, said in a statement. “The positive effects associated with informal flexibility and working at home offer further support to the suggestion that schedule control is highly valued and important to employees ‘enjoying’ work.”

When it comes to autonomy, the disparity between management and worker is apparent: 90 percent of those employees working in management reported “some” or “a lot” of autonomy in the workplace, while just 40 to 50 percent of non-management professionals surveyed reported experiencing autonomous working conditions. The remaining half of employees reported no autonomy in their workplace, researchers found. Autonomy also comes in different shapes and sizes for different employees. The study found, for example, that men and women tend to enjoy different aspects of autonomy and were affected by it in different ways. For women, Wheatley said, the type of work and level of control over scheduling and location was often more important, while men typically found control over job tasks, the pace of work, and the order of task completion to be particularly important. Despite the benefits reported by those employees that experience greater autonomy in the workplace, researchers also found that managers tend to be skeptical of extending more autonomy to the workers they oversee. Researchers hypothesize that the reluctance on the part of managers stems from a desire to keep productivity levels high, and the stigma that greater autonomy might undermine their role of “control and effort extraction” from employees.

Social Media Screenings Gain in Popularity

If you think that your Facebook and Twitter profiles won’t be looked at when you’re applying for a job, think again. The vast majority of employers are now searching through candidates’ social media accounts as part of the hiring process, new research finds. A study from CareerBuilder revealed that 70 percent of employers now use social media to screen job candidates before hiring them, up from 60 percent a year ago and 11 percent in 2006. Many employers are also moving beyond social networks when checking out potential employees online. Nearly 70 percent are using online search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to research candidates as well, compared to just 59 percent last year.

While the fear of having something embarrassing or negative discovered might tempt some job candidates to try and completely erase their online persona, employers say that strategy can backfire for many job seekers. One-quarter of hiring managers expect candidates to have some sort of online presence, and nearly 60 percent are less likely to call someone in for interview if they can’t find them online.

According to the report, job seekers frequently research details about on-the-job lifestyle factors, including benefits and schedule flexibility as well as the type of work that will be expected of them if hired. The most important criteria, however, is compensation. Currently, 44 percent of candidates know compensation details about a position before applying, and this level of transparency is only increasing. “Easy access to information has changed the way individuals find jobs and jobs find individuals,” said Jim McCoy, vice president and global practice leader at ManpowerGroup Solutions. “As organizations across the globe continue to report difficulties filling roles, understanding candidate preferences is critical.” ManpowerGroup Solutions offers the following advice for employers and hiring managers to help with recruiting efforts.

Reach the right talent where they are Understand that candidates are gleaning much of their information from your company’s website, so it’s important to prioritize the creation of content that is both brand relevant and high quality. Be open to new conversations and new ways of having them You must be willing to be fully transparent with today’s information-hungry candidates – especially related to compensation. Monitor the buzz Monitor conversations about your company on social media and career sites like Glassdoor, and be ready to jump in and respond to questions or provide additional information when necessary. “Organizations should be thinking about candidates as consumers,” McCoy added. “Managing the message to the market is key to building a successful employer brand and attracting the best talent.”

Show Employee Appreciation

Anyone can perform a task at work knowing the end result is a salary. However, passion and hard work often stems from affirmations employees hear from their boss or manager. Workers don’t just crave a paycheck — they want recognition, verbal appreciation and encouragement. Of course, it’s easy to say “thank you” or “good job” and be done with it; but there are countless ways to show your support and respect for your employees. Business News Daily asked business owners and experts to share the best ways to make your employees feel more appreciated. 1. Let employees reward one another. “[Put] the power of recognition and reward in their hands. I use apps and programs like YouEarnedIt to give my employees the power to give each other kudos for good work done. I let my team members choose their reward, too, because not everyone wants a cash bonus or a gift card.”

2. Offer employees a platform. “It could be done as a request to share. When we let people know we value what they have to offer by asking if they’d share their story, tips, methods, etc. with others, it provides validation to them that they do have something of value to offer, and it boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem in the process. This doesn’t mean we add a training function to their currently overloaded job, but it could be sharing at a team or organizational event, award ceremony or even in a newsletter.” – Sandy Geroux, CEO, WOWplace International 3. Let employees make important decisions. “Let them make decisions that matter and can impact the company. Verbal appreciation is important, and bonuses or other perks are appreciated, but ultimately, showing someone that you trust their opinion and expertise is far more valuable.” – Drew Thomas, chief creative officer, Brolik 4. Give them little surprises. “My favorite forms of appreciation include unexpected treats like group lunches or a shortened workday. I also like activities that add value for both the individual and the company, including team-building challenges and fully paid continuing-education courses.”

– Kelsey Libert, vice president of marketing, Fractl 5. Be specific with praise. “Leaders need to be specific in expressing their appreciation so that it reinforces behaviors through positive feedback for the employee. Instead of a generic ‘great job,’ be specific — for example, ‘I really like how you’ve pulled the discussion back together – You’re an exemplary collaborator.’ Being specific also adds meaning and inspires the employee to further develop their skills in that particular area.” – Reuven Gorsht, global vice president of customer strategy, SAP 6. Give employees extra time off. “I think the most valuable way to recognize an employee today is through time —that is, time off, time to do something else besides work. It could be family, a hobby, or a charity, or a short vacation. I don’t think it needs to be routine or regular, and has the most value when it’s unexpected.” – Mark S. Valenti, president and CEO, The Sextant Group